BETHANY, W.Va. — Bethany College marked the start of the 2012-13 academic year on Aug. 25 with a formal matriculation convocation held in the Dr. Fred H. Tilock Amphitheatre at the Pennington Quadrangle.
Dr. Scott D. Miller, president of the college, was joined by faculty and staff in the ceremony that welcomed approximately 330 new students to Bethany. He said the Class of 2016 is among the strongest in over 30 years, the third-largest since 1977. The total of new students in each of the past four years represents the largest classes since the mid-1970s.
“Students today, as well as their families, expect a high degree of contact with college presidents, something that has changed since I went to school. One of the best things about being a Bethany student is that you won’t have to go to extraordinary lengths to meet and talk with me,” said Miller.
“And in addition to our electronic conversations, of course, we’ll meet and talk in the halls and grounds as we go about our rounds of appointments and classes. I’ll be a face, not just a name, and you will definitely know where to find me.”
He continued, “One of the best things about my job is to watch young men and women grow and mature as they complete the process of adolescence to young adulthood on our campus. What an inspiring transformation to witness. Your Bethany education will help you achieve the maturity you may not at first realize that you need, but which will prepare you for the innumerable challenges you will confront later in life.”
Saturday’s ceremony began with tradition, with the incoming students — including 280 freshmen, 40 transfers and 10 graduate students — marching in a processional through the Oglebay Gates up the hill to the amphitheatre. This long-standing and unique Bethany College tradition will be led by bagpiper Dave Olson. Students only walk through the gates one other time during their college career – at graduation.
President Miller and Evan Marmie, president of the student government association, officially welcomed the students. Dr. Darin Fields, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, presented the formal charge to the faculty to honor its commitment to the entering class. Gerald Stebbins, dean of students, presented the formal charge to the students to honor their commitment to education.
The convocation concluded with a time-honored ritual as each new student signed the Bethany College Book of Matriculation — a tradition that dates back to the late 1800s. While the original book was destroyed in a fire, the custom continues to be followed more than 170 years after Alexander Campbell founded the college.
During his welcome, Miller noted that “enrollment, diversity and accomplishment are real sources of pride,” mentioning the Class of 2016 is among the strongest in 40 years. The incoming class includes students from California to Massachusetts in addition to students from five different countries. Nine Kalon Scholarship recipients were welcomed as new Bethanians, as well as scholar-athletes and members of the Armed Forces, and many individuals with strong backgrounds in the fine and performing arts.
Miller concluded with a challenge to incoming students, saying, “So, in your four years here, try something new, stretch beyond your comfort zone, reach out to others—and above all, enjoy the journey.”
Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.